Sauerkraut? Really? Youbetcha. I am all about healing the gut, absorbing the most nutrition possible from the healthy foods we eat, easing digestion, and empowering our immune systems.
Fermented foods fill the bill.
Why not just buy it? Store-bought sauerkraut is heated at high enough temperatures to kill all the bacteria. Problem is, it kills the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria. If you make your own, proper fermenting provides the good bacteria.
There are a lot of different fermented foods recipes. You can try many of them out at Wardee Harmon’s site, https://traditionalcookingschool.com/food-preparation/recipes/44-fermented-probiotic-filled-condiments/ . Wardee is one of my favorite healthy-food-and-lifestyle go-to’s because she tries out whatever she puts out there. She’s done a lot of research and a lot of homework, and she cooks for her family. In another post, https://traditionalcookingschool.com/pod-cast/kyf-156-7-fermenting-mistakes-you-might-be-making/ , she reassures the timid that yes, you really can eat fermented foods. And yes, you really can make them.
Why fermented foods? Fermenting allows healthy bacteria to grow in our food. We eat the healthy bacteria, and that bacteria works in our gut to assist in digestion. That helps us to better absorb nutrients in the food. And it helps whisk the bad bacteria out. Eating fermented foods boosts our immune systems. Fermentation used to be much more common than it is now; folks knew they needed to eat fermented foods along with their meals: yogurt, fermented vegetables, fermented drinks. Food companies have figured out how to make something taste fermented without actually fermenting it, or processing it so that it no longer offers the benefits (store-bought sauerkraut, pickles, pickled beets, etc.). Now it’s a thing we have to talk about because somehow it went out of style; it’s important to bring it back.
Dr. Josh Axe does a nice job of explaining health benefits of fermented food in this article, and lists some common fermented foods: https://draxe.com/nutrition/fermented-foods/ .
You can find numerous youtube videos showcasing homemade sauerkraut. I invite you to do a search and choose a favorite to watch. You’ll see how simple it really is. This is a good one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO90h3xB3oc
And then, much to my surprise, homemade sauerkraut tastes delicious! I’m not much of a sour-tasting kind of gal (I run strongly along sweet-tooth lines). But I enjoy my homemade sauerkraut. Another nice thing about it is, you don’t have to eat very much of it to enjoy the benefits. A few spoonfuls will do the trick. And if you’re suffering from digestive issues, you can drink some sips of just the juice to help alleviate symptoms.
- Cabbage (red or green; wilted/brown outer leaves removed)
- Salt (sea salt or Himalayan or mineral salt)
- Optional ingredients:
- Onion (red, yellow or white)
- Apple (washed and cored)
- Notice there are no amounts of each ingredient. That’s on purpose because you can make as much or as little as you want. If you’re using cabbage for another purpose, you can save just a bit aside and try a small batch.
- Shred all ingredients into a bowl larger than your pile of ingredients.
- Sprinkle with salt. Taste your mixture; you add salt until the mixture tastes pretty salty, but not too much. For one medium cabbage, you can start with a tablespoon of salt.
- Use a meat pounder or large spoon and pound the mixture. Alternatively, you can do this with your hands: do a hard massage. You want to bruise the ingredients. You’re looking for the salt to draw out the juices. Pound for five or ten minutes.
- Cover the bowl with a dish towel or cheesecloth for 30 minutes.
- Pound or massage some more; get those juices flowing.
- Transfer the mixture to a CLEAN glass jar.
- Push the mixture down so that the liquid covers it. If there is not enough juice to cover the mixture, add filtered water; you need just enough to submerge it. (If you need a lot of water, add some more salt.)
- Cover the jar with cloth. (I see most recipes online say to use something to weight-down the mixture inside the jar, and then to cover the jar with a lid. If you use a lid, make sure to open it once or twice per day, to let the expanding gasses out, so the jar doesn’t explode.)
- Let the mixture sit on your counter for 3 – 7 days. Each day, take a look at it. There should be bubbles forming. Stick a knife or chopstick down into it to stir it a bit and get the bubbles out. Make sure the solid ingredients stay submerged.
- After 3 days, do a smell test. It should smell sour, but not disgusting. Look at it carefully. There should be no mold (if there is mold, throw it away and start again).
- Taste it. If you like the way it tastes, put it in the refrigerator and start eating it. If you like, you can keep it on the counter to continue fermenting. Taste it once in a while to see what you like. (Again, if you see mold, or if it smells off, throw it away.) Once or twice each day, stick the knife or chopstick in and massage the bubbles out. There should always be enough liquid to cover the solid mixture. Add filtered water if you need to.
- I usually put mine in the ‘fridge after 4 days; but that’s the way I like it.
Your homemade sauerkraut should last in the ‘fridge for about 6 months.
What to do with your sauerkraut?
- Eat it plain
- Put a little on a sloppy joe / steamburger / tavern or pulled pork sandwich
- Top a hot dog or brat
- Side dish for pork chops, with a little applesauce
- Drink sips of the liquid to ease digestion or calm a queasy stomach; this can also be a quick boost to your immune system, and is helpful if you feel like you’re coming down with something.
- Add to a smoothie (a couple of tablespoons adds probiotics, but won’t add much taste)
- Salad ingredient
- Add to a tuna sandwich
- Mix in with potato salad
- If you cook your sauerkraut, it will kill the beneficial microorganisms. You can enjoy the taste of it cooked. If you like, add some extra, uncooked, to the same dish, to add some probiotics.
- Reuben sandwich or gourmet grilled cheese
- Baked sausage & kraut